A Founder’s Quest to Build a More Equitable World Through Health Education
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse stories with the mission to inspire kids and youth around the world to become entrepreneurs with empathy. This series features interviews of LGBT founders by a character named Spiffy to help young readers observe Pride Month with a renewed commitment to build a more equitable world for all.
Hi everyone, I am Spiffy, your interplanetary space journalist reporting from Planet Earth. There is a deep pain in our hearts but I’m sure our friends on Planet Earth will come out stronger through these tough times. I say this with such certainty because I have had the privilege to meet some of the finest people on Planet Earth, who are tirelessly working to build a more equitable future for all. One such person is Reva McPollom, Founder, LessonBee.
SPIFFY: Reva, thank you for talking to me. Could you tell our readers what challenge you are addressing?
REVA: You are welcome, Spiffy. My startup Lessonbee addresses the health education gap in the United States and promotes empathy and diversity through a culturally responsive digital health curriculum and reflective learning platform. There’s a mishmash of health education policies across the US, so the quality of a child’s health education depends on their zip code. For example, 39 states require sexual health education, but only 17 require it to be medically accurate.
That means elsewhere, sexual health education can be based on opinion, bias and ideology. That wouldn’t fly for other topics, so it’s really irresponsible that we treat health education this way. If you’re LGBTQ, you’re basically invisible in most health curriculum, and even in the year 2020 there are 7 states that require only negative information be provided on homosexuality in health class. At a time with more than 50% of kids identify as other than straight, many kids don’t get the education they need to make responsible health choices, and millions of them struggle with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other health challenges that are compounded by incomplete or inaccurate health education they receive in school.
Those kids turn into adults whose habits and decisions perpetuate an unhealthy society. So, we’re building technology to support a fundamental change in the educational system and help make health the new academic standard.
Image Courtesy: Lessonbee
SPIFFY: That’s really inspiring, Reva. What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
REVA: I know from personal experience that if you don’t feel healthy at school, you can’t be at your best. I was very isolated growing up. I’m not unique in that, but there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t regret being so consumed by insecurity that I couldn’t experience the joy of education. It doesn’t have to be that way; I don’t want that for my daughter and I don’t want it for other kids. I created Lessonbee because I want to transform our educational system where millions of kids are stressed, anxious, and disconnected, to one where every student feels confident, connected, and worthy of health and success.
Moreso, I believe that our perceptions around health sit at the center of all of our societal problems. To save the environment, end racism, stop domestic violence, reduce the number of abortions, decrease the rampant anxiety and isolation that has become synonymous with our ironically hyper-connected generation, or address any of today’s wicked problems, we must value personal, family and community health. Research also shows that healthy kids behave better, perform better academically, and have better health outcomes later in life. But I would argue this is also common sense.
SPIFFY: True words! So, please tell me about a recent milestone by Lessonbee. What impact does that make?
REVA: We’re an early stage startup but have made significant progress in less than a year. In February, our curriculum was approved by the Chicago Public Schools and the New York City Department of Education is adding Lessonbee to their list of recommended high-quality, standards-based health education instructional materials. So, we definitely see New York and Illinois as our proving ground. We’ve also recently united with PowerSchool - a leading K-12 education technology provider - as a Schoology Learning Applications Partner, which will provide our mutual customer base access to age-appropriate content that address all CDC recommended health topics for students in grades K-12, including mental health education and sexual health education. PowerSchool customers can access Lessonbee via the Schoology App Center under the Health & Physical Education category.
SPIFFY: Wow! This incredible journey must have been tough too, though. Could you share an experience when you faced failure, but didn't give up? What did you learn from failure?
REVA: As a startup founder, I face rejection on a regular basis. But I see rejection as a natural part of my personal evolution and the evolution of the business. What I’m learning is to stop chasing things that aren’t meant for me. Every rejection is like a chisel that takes a bit more off the surface, and I get one step closer to realizing the masterpiece.
SPIFFY: I can relate to this so much, Reva! After all, we are all stardust, working through failures to shine and spread our light! I am curious to know what is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
REVA: I watched a SXSW presentation recently on the topic of sexual illiteracy. I had never heard that phrase before and found it very powerful because it positions sexuality education as skill-building and not just informational. When you think of sex ed, it’s usually limited to the idea of preventing unwanted pregnancy and scaring you with images of STDS. But when you realize that domestic violence, depression, and even poverty can result from sexual illiteracy, I think it lays bare the necessity to ensure that every kid has access to comprehensive sexuality education to reduce these problems.
SPIFFY: Well, I’m sure with your leadership, they will have that access one day! Before I go, is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
REVA: I want to encourage every educator who wants to address the achievement gap, improve school culture, or promote equity in education to get as excited about applying technology to health education as science, math or english language arts. It’s clear that on many levels we’re in the midst of a health crisis. If we want to fix it, modernizing health class is a great place to start.
SPIFFY: Thanks Reva, I will be sure to spread this conversation far and wide, so that health education becomes a priority not just on Planet Earth but across our universe! Bye and TC!
REVA: You too, Spiffy! Bye!
Reva McPollom is a millennial mom, digital learning consultant, and the founder and CEO of Lessonbee, an educational technology company that’s reinventing the health education experience with adaptive digital curriculum and instructional tools to support culturally responsive teaching and learning across the curriculum. Nominated for Spiffy interview by: Gaingels.
© 2020 Ladderworks LLC. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co
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